and obtain U.S. citizenship for the child.
Jeff and Florida Chow of Ewa Beach remember well when they adopted their daughter Samanatha. At the time, they were married, in their 40s, and had no children. “We decided to adopt because we tried to have children of our own but was unsuccessful,” said Florida.
“Our adoption process took about 4 years, but it felt like a lifetime. We were matched in December 2013 and was able to pick up Samantha from the Philippines in May 2014,” she said. Florida remembers there were a lot of deadlines to meet, turning in forms, having finances in order to pay fees. “We were fortunate that we were referred to Hawaii International Child and they prompted us every time something needed to be done.
The Chows mentioned some of the procedures and costs involved: application, paperwork, home study, homeland security, dossier, agency, foreign program, post placement, orphanage, postage, humanitarian, adoption consultation, child travel, pre-travel, adoption travel costs, attorney, certificate of citizenship and passport.
HIC’s Abe said adoption costs typically range from $25,000 to $35,000. This includes third party fees like those of ICAB, the USCIS, lawyer and travel expenses. She adds that HIC has previously offered substantial grants and fee waivers to families unable to afford the cost of adoption. “In the past, no family was turned away by HIC due to inability to pay the fees.”
On seeing Samantha’s photo for the first time once she was matched with the Chows, Florida recounts, “Our hearts just melted. She was beautiful. When we finally went to the Philippines to pick up Samantha and meeting her for the first time, she was shy and a little hesitant coming near us. There were about 15 children at the orphanage that were very playful, but our daughter stayed away. The orphanage had an adoption ceremony as they handed her to us. It was very emotional for us and our daughter cried.
“The first night with her was a struggle. She cried, probably missing everyone at the orphanage. I tried entertaining her with the I-pad and a stuffed rabbit as I held her through the night. By the following day she started calling us mommy and daddy. She did not speak any English. Even though I’m Filipino, I could not speak her language,” said Florida.
The Chows were in the Philippines for only seven days when they picked up Samantha. “Everything went very smoothly from picking up our daughter to visiting ICAB and completing the paperwork before leaving the Philippines.”
“Since Sam came into our lives she filled our home with so much love, joy and laughter. Everyone welcomed her with open arms.”
Sam was 3 years old when the Chows adopted her. She is now 7. “Since I have a large family, Sam interacts with the young children as well as the older ones. We now spend our weekends taking her to dance and singing lessons. She is a great traveler and we plan to do more traveling in the future,” said Florida.
Like Samantha and Elizette, adopted children from the Philippines typically experience difficulties with English upon first arriving, but they quickly learn to communicate. HIC’s Abe said modern technology has made things easier with phone apps and translation apps. She said many Filipino children already understand English but need a little more time to express their thoughts and feelings clearly. English as a Second Language classes, available in many schools, also help.
Abe mentions other adjustments adoptive children from the Philippines experience, “Some children do not meet the developmental milestones for their age group upon arrival from the Philippines. Some are underweight or have dental issues. But after several months of consistent medical and dental monitoring as well as proper nutrition, they become developmentally on track. Some children show cognitive delays. They do not perform at par with their age group and need tutoring or after class support classes. A few were placed one grade level below their age group,” said Abe.
But adjustments vary case-to-case. A 1994 study conducted by the Search Institute found that adopted children score higher than their middle-class peers on indicators of school performance and social competence. That same study also found that compared with children of single parents, adopted children are less involved in alcohol abuse, fighting, police trouble; and they score higher on health measures. Parents who adopt are also more likely to stay married, according to the study.
Who Can Adopt from the Philippines
A few of the requirements that must be met by the ICAB for adoption in the Philippines include: PAP must be at least 27 years old and at least 16 years older than the child to be adopted but not have a gap of 45 years between PAP and adopted child; married couples must have been married for one year or can show they have been living together for more than two years prior to marriage; and PAP has not been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude. The country of origin of a PAP must have diplomatic relations with the Philippines, allows adoptions, and maintains a foreign adoption agency. There are numerous supporting documents that need to be submitted including a physical and psychological evaluation.
Myths Surrounding Adopting in the Philippines
Adopting a child is a serious matter and must be a carefully well-thought out plan. The goal for every adoption is to put the welfare of the child first. The belief that people have of mothers’ who offer up their children for adoption, that they don’t care for their child, is a myth. Many times, as in the case of Elizette’s biological mom, offering up a child for adoption can be a selfless act. Another popular belief is that prospective adopted parents must reside in the Philippines for several years to adopt a child from the Philippines. The Philippine government may waive this requirement in certain situations. Another myth is that an attorney is needed for the adoption process. It is an option, but licensed agencies are well informed of the entire process. There are other myths and stigma associated with adoptions that are baseless. Prospective adoptive parents shouldn’t be deterred by what they hear and do their own research to find out the facts. As the Chows can attest to, if you are serious about adopting a child from the Philippines, it can be one of the greatest joys for a family.